posted 21 Jun 2010 in Volume 13 Issue 9
View from... KMUK 2010
Not to be confused with KM Legal, the newly rebranded KMUK had some pretty high expectations to meet. In a nod to the global acceptance of social computing, the organisers had also ensured that the conference was Twitter friendly, so had to make sure that every single element was spot on – or risk an influx of less than positive tweets. Fortunately, this didn’t happen. In fact, the Twitter stream that bubbled away throughout both days has since been mentioned to me by a number of the ‘heavyweights’ who were in attendance and makes for interesting reading (#KMUK10).
The first thing to be said is that stepping off the Jubilee Line and wandering up to the De Vere, Canary Wharf was much nicer than traipsing across South London and into the belly of the Ibis. The venue this year was superb and, despite some fond (yet hazy) recollections of post-KCUK 2009 shenanigans in the Ibis’ ‘pub-style bar’ last year, I hope that the next conference will stay exactly where it is. That said – and potentially the only gripe you’ll find in this piece – the main room was a touch too small. The Ibis had space – tons of it. But following a few hiccups with the Jubilee Line on day one this year, a good proportion of the attendees who arrived late had to perch at the back of the room for a while, although this was rectified later on. But in the grand scheme of things, that’s not really important, so I’ll get on with it.
The conference was chaired by Paul Corney, managing partner at consultancy Sparknow LLP, who reminded the audience of KM’s roots way back when many issues that we would now associate with effective information management or knowledge sharing could have made the difference between life and death if not handled appropriately.
Corney also asserted that KM was not about a single solution, but was based entirely on hearts and minds, which paved the way for a cracking keynote presentation by Headshift’s Lee Bryant – although the techies among you may want to look away now.
Stand and deliver
Bryant was keen to move the focus away from technology but not before he’d given it a bit of a prodding – in particular, his comments on the oft-dysfunctional relationship between KM and IT. He criticised scenarios where KM projects were simply handed over to IT to “get the life sucked out of them,” before the purchase of an ill-fitting technological solution and, ultimately, failure. KMers, he said, needed to gain more confidence – and budgetary control – by shifting the perception of KM as a ‘Cinderella service’ or optional extra, to a business-critical resource.
However, we’re not without fault, he added, suggesting that KM needed to work harder to move the focus away from storage and repositories and towards knowledge flow – something that Chris Collison and Jan Wyllie have been discussing in previous editions of IK. Bryant referred to the fact that knowledge was so contextual it couldn’t easily be allocated a ‘value’. Therefore we need to concentrate our efforts on freeing our knowledge – looking at emergence, rather than structure.
Summing up, Bryant listed departmental power plays, information siloes and IT as the biggest challenges facing KM. It’s quite hard to shoehorn such a wide-ranging, effective opening speech into a quarter of an article (I have pages and pages of notes), but I’m hoping that if Lee stumbles across this review, he will offer to elaborate in a future issue.
David Gurteen was up next and spent some time discussing his interpretations of the ‘participatory people world’, or People 2.0 – a topic he has touched upon in a few of his more recent Perspective columns. He stated that the plethora of ‘2.0s’ that we find ourselves facing (Web, Enterprise, KM) are all fundamentally KM tools and the numbered moniker can be applied to just about everything – libraries, management, warfare, government and education, being just a few examples.
He then talked through some of his favourite quotes from Ghandi, Winston Churchill and Theodore Zeldin, to name a few, to emphasise some of the points that he had been referring to.
His closing statement included a reminder that knowledge managers needed to adopt the correct mindset. Don’t manipulate people or make them perform tasks in a way not necessarily suited to them. Instead, allow them to draw their own conclusions, even if they differ from yours. All of which requires two-way communication.
Something a little bit different
Nick Davies, who went on to win the ‘best presentation’ category at the awards ceremony later in the day, didn’t disappoint with an amusing yet effective presentation on networking, which got everyone giggling and, more importantly, chatting afterwards. More surprisingly, he even managed to get the post-lunch brigade (and yes, it was a big lunch) to stand up immediately after the break and walk up to someone they had never spoken to before to indulge in a bit of small talk.
Rewinding a little, the conference split into two streams just before lunch time – the second chaired by Dillon Dhanecha, whose article ‘Rapid response’ appeared in the May issue of the magazine.
In the last slot of the morning, delegates had the option of attending an interactive case study from Accenture, led by Priyadarshini Banati, or a session by RSA’s Mark Gooch, who explained various ways in which knowledge was shared without the use of social media, before inviting delegates to take part in an investigative, point-scoring exercise with each other.
The art of storytelling
Immediately after Nick’s second presentation following the lunch break, the conference split again and a large number of us shuffled into the second stream to listen to Ron Donaldson’s insights and experiences around storytelling techniques to bring about positive business change.
This was another engaging and informative talk – and possibly the most effective use of PowerPoint by a presenter. Ron began with a retrospective look at medieval guilds – exploring the lifecycle of masters, apprentices and journeymen. Here, the apprentice was usually bound to his master for a fixed term of at least seven years, before leaving and travelling from town to town, working with other masters as hired hands. After this wanderjahre, the journeymen then settled down and formed their own societies and experiences.
Ron went on to explain the difference between what we observe and hear to what we think – and how this influences our perceptions of conversations we hear or lessons we partake in. Before providing a multitude of tools and methodologies that can transform a business issue or challenge into an idea for improvement, then progress it through the ‘improvement’ stages to the final success story. All of this was really thought-provoking stuff!
It seems a shame to skip through the rest of the afternoon’s presentations, but that is not to say that they weren’t equally inspiring. In the stream I attended, Bonnie Cheuk, who someone at my table referred to as a “little dynamo” co-presented a case study on ERM’s recent co-creation strategy with Samantha Bouzan, (as previously published in IK) and David Croci talked about innovation and cross-fertilisation at Sanofi Pasteur – before the Awards ceremony (and a welcome glass of wine) and the closing panel discussion.
The first day of KMUK was a fantastic start to the conference and I was sorry to be unable to attend day two. The sessions were thought-provoking and it was nice not to experience the usual afternoon slump around 3pm.
I’m going to refer you to #KMUK10 again, as I couldn’t even begin to list what people took away with them from this conference – as there was so much. For me, the key message throughout was that KM was here to stay, albeit in a different guise to previous years – and KM people needed to ensure they maintained a few key personal attributes to ensure that the correct focus and action points are being upheld. Openness, a willingness to learn and flexibility were all cited.
Great event, Ark – I hope that you can match it next year!
There was simply not enough space or time to provide coverage of every single presentation in this issue. This opinion column is by no means an exhaustive account of the day’s proceedings and individual speakers and topics will be explored further in the August and September editions of the magazine. Similarly, if you attended the conference, IK would love to hear from you. If you would like to share any opinions, e-mail me at email@example.com